This article is part of a two part series – the first written in 2008 is Part 1 and the second is this one, written in 2024. See Part 1 here.
Here we are in 2024. So many years have passed since I felt spurred on to write an article for ‘Garden Design Study Group’. On re-reading the article written in 2008, I see that many of the plants listed back then as being ‘species that are thriving with minimum care’ are now struggling to survive with or without our care.
The weather dictates whether or not our garden plants pass with flying colours, or whether they shrivel, lose their leaves, and seem to wait patiently but forlornly for the next extreme weather event (hopefully rain).
Of course, during my meanderings through the garden I talk to them with a promise of better times ahead. Even Eremophila species have succumbed to hot dry spells. Do they understand what I am saying? Do I understand what I am saying?
In good times during the past years (2010 – 2022) we have enjoyed outbursts of lush green growth, and unexpected colour due to favourable weather conditions.
Hope for the future
Nevertheless, my mind spins and my heart pounds with the obvious signs of climate change that are all about us.
In the garden alone, many trees and shrubs have died and for various reasons have not been removed (no time, and a small feeling of hope that they are serving an important role as ‘lookouts’ and ‘hideaways’ for other creatures; but also with a small feeling of dread that I am providing fuel for the bushfires that have been so close, and might come again). I take my cue from the wild places on our property where eagles drift, and nature seems to know so much more than we do.
During the recurring hot dry periods we have been experiencing, we notice the trees in the forests drooping, dropping leaves, and understory disappearing; and hear the loud crash (is it a scream?) of magnificent well-established trees falling unexpectedly to the ground.
Finally, there comes the beating of rain, bringing relief, but also soil erosion.
When we have intermittent periods of cool, drenching rain we feel our spirits lift and our energy restored. During spring to summer 2021 – 2022 we experienced an incredible outburst of wildflowers, with flannel flowers drifting over acres of wild hilly country on Eagles Drift property, their gentle swaying and bending with the breeze bringing delight to all who dallied within their soft embrace.
That Christmas, friends and family visiting from the city, excitedly declared “we are having a white Christmas!”
Many other wildflowers excelled beyond our wildest dreams, with hibertias, dampieras, indigoferas, everlasting daisies, small ground orchids, hardenbergia twisting and climbing over boulders and up trees, and many others. What a privilege to be part of the show!
When I caste my eyes on these highlights in the bush, I wistfully imagine our home garden bursting with such delights.
It doesn’t happen. No matter how hard we try!
But, I gain a surge of enthusiasm and pleasure when I notice that some of our old faithfuls – Callistemon sp., Eremophila sp., Correa alba, Senna artemisoides, Chrysocephalum apiculatum, Lomandras, Dianellas, Scavoelas and native grasses haven’t completely succumbed due to extreme heat. I won’t mention kikuyu and couch grass.
In fact new growth and a few flowers and seed heads are at present emerging, enticing small birds, such as wrens, honey eaters, swallows, pardalotes, spinebills, thornbills, mistletoe birds, finches, parrots, rosellas, willy wagtails, magpies, pee wees, shrike thrushes and so on. Not to mention the small skinks that come scuttling from rocky nooks and crannies when they hear the sound of water.
This morning when I opened the back door, following an unexpected down-pour two nights ago, a chorus of frogs and chattering birds welcomed me into their world where a manicured environment is not a requisite for their survival. Provision of animal watering spots, rocks, logs and leaf litter are welcomed by them; their idea of heaven!
I try to stop stressing about the things I can’t grow and realise that in this day and age, with climate extremes, provision of wild life habitat is our idea of a garden, and heaven!
Really the only designed features within our garden are rambling tracks and placement of hides and hollows. We follow in the footsteps of nocturnal creatures who frequent the area in the stillness of night; such as wallaroos, kangaroos, wallabies and wombats which visit as their needs arise. Butterflies, bees and other insects are welcome visitors directing us to their requirements.
When food is scarce for them during hot dry times (and these are becoming more frequent) local wild animals visit our garden sanctuary, where they can find water, shade and food. We are delighted when we see and hear them.
Many wild creatures are heading for extinction; providing a haven for them is the least we can do. The rewards are immense.